Data Tracker

The 10 biggest Sacramento storms of the past 100 years

By Phillip Reese and Pete Basofin

This past weekend's storm system wreaked havoc, but it's unlikely to go down in Sacramento lore, which is rich with tales of massive downpours and crippling floods.

During the past 100 years, 10 storms have dumped at least 2.8 inches of rain on downtown Sacramento over the course of a single day. (By comparison, the worst day from this weekend's storms saw about 1.6 inches of rain.)

Here's headlines and summaries for each of those big storms taken from Bee stories written soon after they hit.

Oct. 13, 1962 (3.63 inches)

Headline: Sacramento streets flood in wake of plummeting rain

Record rainfall flooded streets in many parts of Sacramento, especially in the Fruitridge and Sutterville areas. The 12th Street subway closed for a time and portions of other streets were either impassable or barely driveable. Many buildings were inundated, including homes in South Sacramento between 58th and 60th Streets. Families were evacuated from homes in Rio Linda and North Highlands. About 5,000 telephones were knocked out of service due to the weather.

April 7, 1935 (3.35 inches)

Headline: One missing, fifty saved in waters here

Feb. 17, 1986 (3.21 inches)

Headline: Deluge batters Capital, floods condos

Seven consecutive days of rain swelled Sacramento's rivers, filled reservoirs nearly to the brim and forced the evacuation of residents from the upscale Woodside East condominiums near Howe and Northrop avenues. Across Sacramento and the suburbs, storm drains backed up when the downpour hit. The 12th Street underpass into Sacramento was flooded, as usual.

Jan. 21, 1943 (3.14 inches)

Headline: Property toll is taken as rivers mount; Lowlands are inundated along courses of both streams

High winds and heavy rains broke windows, damaged roofs and knocked down trees in Sacramento. The American River reached its 40 foot flood stage at midnight and began overflowing at the H Street Bridge. Twenty families fled their homes east of the bridge. Flood waters from the American also filled lowlands between the 16th Street Bridge and North Sacramento. Several stranded families were rescued from homes surrounded by high water south of Woodlake across the river from the Elvas Railroad Tower.

Sept. 12, 1918 (3.13 inches)

Headline: Grapes are hit hard by the heavy rains; Fifty percent damage is estimated in the Tokay districts

Growers in Lodi estimate that heavy, unseasonable rain will destroy about half of the normal grape crop. With the exception of cling peaches, most other fruit has already been harvested. The downpour swells Cache Creek in Yolo County in a raging torrent that shuts down work on a new county bridge over the stream.

Jan. 24, 2000 (3.11 inches)

Headline: Record storm wallops region; Fears of drought vanish in deluge

The daylong downpour swamped streets, closed schools, triggered fatal accidents and sent creek waters over their banks throughout the Sacramento region. The storm caused havoc as cars slid across freeways, streets flooded, traffic backed up, trees fell down and residents in flood-prone areas kept a war eye on rising waters. Several people in the larger region died in storm-related accidents.

Jan. 4, 1982 (3.10 inches)

Headline: Wet, wild storm savages north state

Floods, strong winds and heavy snow stranded thousands in Northern California and caused extensive property damage in one of the most devastating storms in 25 years. A massive downpour in Marin County flooded highways and sparked landslides. Mud and water raged through the streets of San Rafael. Blizzard conditions near Mt. Shasta stranded travelers on I-5 and forced more than 500 people to seek shelter in Yreka. The storm's heavy rain flooded some streets in Sacramento, mostly in south area of the city. About 10,000 PG&E and 5,000 SMUD customers in the city lost power for a time.

Oct. 13, 2009 (3.04 inches)

Headline: Rainy season roars in; Strong storm soaks capital, cuts power and snaps trees

The first major storm of the season lashed the Sacramento region, leaving more than 124,000 customers without electricity, snapping trees, closing schools and flooding a downtown section of I-5 for most of the day. The storm swept in after midnight as winds increased and eventually gusted as high as 48 mph at Sacramento Executive Airport.

Jan. 21, 1967 (2.87 inches)

Headline: Storm lashes across upper part of state

The Napa and Russian Rivers overflowed, flooding bridges, streets and homes in the cities of Napa and Guerneville. Small lakes of water formed in many parts of Sacramento City and County, but damage to buildings was minimal. High water blocked some intersections and thoroughfares for a time, including Winding Way near American River College.

Jan. 9, 1995 (2.83 inches)

Headline: Storm swamps Capital streets; local emergency proclaimed

The storm dumped nearly 1-1/2 inches of rain on Sacramento in an hour. (That's the most in a single hour during the last 100 years.) It overwhelmed the storm-drain system, forced knee-high flooding at dozens of intersections and stranded scores of automobiles. It also caused evacuations from homes, flooded freeways, downed power lines and prompted City Manager Bill Edgar to declare an emergency.

Source: National Climatic Data Center